Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/622

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present investigation, such as apples, plums, peaches, cherries, haws, and bramble-berries. Every one of these plants is provided with hard and indigestible seeds, coated or surrounded by a soft, sweet, pulpy, perfumed, bright-colored, and nutritious covering, known as fruit. By all these means the plant allures birds or mammals to swallow and disperse its undigested seed, giving in, as it were, the pulpy covering as a reward to the animal for the service thus conferred. But before we go on to inquire into the mode of their development we must glance aside briefly at a second important difference in the constitution of seeds.

If we plant a grain of mustard-seed in moist earth and allow it to germinate, we shall see that its young leaves begin from the very first to grow green and assimilate energetic matter from the air around them. They are, indeed, compelled to do so, because they have no large store of nutriment laid up in the seed-leaves for their future use by the mother-plant. But if we treat a pea in the same manner, we shall find that it long continues to derive nourishment from the abundant stock of food treasured up in its big, round seed-leaves. Now of course any plant which thus learns to lay by in time for the wants of its offspring gives its embryo a far better chance of surviving and leaving descendants in its turn, than one which abandons its infant plants to their own unaided resources in a stern battle with the unkindly world. Exactly the same difference exists between the two cases as that which exists between the wealthy merchant's son, launched on life with abundant capital accumulated by his father, and the street Arab, turned adrift, as soon as he can walk alone, to shift or starve for himself in the lanes and alleys of a great city.

So, then, as plants went on varying and improving under the stress of over-population, it would naturally result that many species must hit independently upon this device of laying by granaries of nutriment for the use of their descendants. But side by side with the advancing development of vegetable life, animal life was also developing in complexity and perfect adaptation to its circumstances. And herein lay a difficult dilemma for the unhappy plant. On the one hand, in order to compete with its neighbors, it must lay up stores of starch and oil and albumen for the good of its embryos; while, on the other hand, the more industriously it accumulated these expensive substances, the more temptingly did it lay itself open to the depredations of the squirrels, mice, bats, monkeys, and other clever thieves, whose number was daily increasing in the forests round about. The plant becomes, in short, like a merchant in a land exposed to the inroads of powerful robbers. If he does not keep up his shop with its tempting display of wares, he must die for want of custom; if he shows them too readily and unguardedly, he will lay himself open to be plundered of his whole stock in-trade. In such a case, the plant and the merchant have recourse to the self-same devices. Sometimes they surround themselves with